The critters of Orange Hill

A video compilation of some of the critters we met at Orange Hill…

My, what fine big white teeth you have…

The final two dives of our trip were the shark dives.  These two dives were at the same location. For the first dive we went down and swam out towards a wall that we followed for a little bit before heading back up to the boat. We occasionally saw sharks but tim and I spent more of our time poking around in little holes and looking at smaller critters and sponges and corals. The seas were calmer today and it was a very enjoyable dive.

Our next dive was the feeding dive where they try to lure in as many sharks as possible.

Before every dive, the dive master gives us an overview of the area and talks about what we will do on the dive as well a giving cautions and a briefing on emergency procedures. This time the speech sounded much more dire.

Since they were going to be baiting the sharks with food to bring them in close, the sharks were going to be in a excited, aggressive state. Rule #1: no pooftas… Wait… No that was from something else… Sorry… Rule #1 was actually keep you hands in close and don’t make sudden movements. Apparently a gloved hand looks an awful lot like a tasty fishhead to a hungry shark.

 


We were going to all dive down together and meet in an open sandy area where a series of stones had been placed to form a large circle. We would each position ourselves at one of the stones facing inward while our guides would feed the sharks from a large metal baitbox.

We were supposed to dump all of our air out of our BCs and bring extra weight so we could sit or lay still on the bottom. The crew stressed over and over the importance of keeping still. Keep your hands in close, don’t wave at the photographer, don’t even use your hands for balance if you start to fall over… Just let yourself fall.

One of the things I couldn’t help but notice was that the dive crew were all wearing chainmail armor on their arms. Boy, I thought, that would be a nice way to add some extra weight. But alas, I would just have to rely on my extreme stillness to keep me safe.

It wasn’t much longer before we entered the water. One by one, stepping off the end of the boat or rolling over the side. I began my descent just as a sea turtle began his way across the sandy bottom. I watched him glide slowly, his flippers propelling him forward, as I dropped down towards the bottom 40 feet below me.Tim joined me and we moved toward the circle, each of us choosing a stone to hold onto. I released the rest of the air from my BC until I rested firmly on the sand. My hands gripped the stone on either side and I used it to anchor myself to the bottom.


Soon the sharks began swarming in front of us. There were perhaps 30 or 40 reef sharks. Some of them had ramoras riding along, suctioned to the belly of the shark. Also yellowtail snapper swam about trying to grab little bits of food that the sharks missed.

That’s Tim on the left and me on the right.
The guides brought the sharks in by feeding them fish heads and parts that they had in a metal box.  As I was watching, one of the fish heads got loose and started tumbling slowly towards Tim with the sharks following closely behind.  I didn’t quite see what happened, I think the fish head kept tumbling past Tim and was presumably eaten.  When I talked to Tim later he was unaware of this, but he had noticed a shark coming straight at him which ended up swimming straight into his hand before it moved off to the side and went around him.


Although the experience wasn’t quite as scary as I thought it would be, it was pretty intense the first time a shark swam directly at me, veering off to the side just before he reached me. The sharks would frequently pass within a foot of me, silently gliding by. On three occasions I even felt them bump into me as they swam past.




After the food supply was nearly exhausted, and the photographer had taken about a zillion pictures of us surrounded by sharks, our guide led the sharks away from the group.

Earlier in the week, we were all let in on a secret that we miraculously managed to keep to the end.  As we watched, Matt got down on one knee (at least as best you can at 40′ under water) and proposed to his girlfriend Tracy who I’m sure was quite stunned.



also… if you’ve already read my prior dive entries “Dives 3-6” and “Dives 7&8”, you should take another look because I finally got around to adding pictures to them.

Time to relax

After completing our dives for today it was time to relax. We’re just lazing around the pool enjoying the warm weather (apologies to those of you weathering the rains back home)

Dives 7&8

Again the seas were rough. We had plans… We had to improvise. Later we had to improvise again. Apparently, the weather is usually much better than this and it’s got everyone scratching their heads trying to figure out how to adapt.  We ended up doing two dives. Both of them were at locations we had been to the previous day. One of those was the deep dive.

One of the things that people like to do is tell stories. And of course, when you tell a story, you don’t recount mundane everyday experiences. No. Instead you relate your more exciting, disgusting, interesting, or outlandish stories.In the world of scuba diving, those stories inevitably have an element of disaster, sometimes averted, sometimes painfully permanent. Sandra (our trip leaders wife) had the story of being bitten by a shark. My dive instructor Bill told a story of a young couple wreck diving and one of them gets lost in the wreck and slowly runs out of air as her fiance hears her tapping on the hull of the boat. And of course there are many many stories of people who dive deep and nearly are lost in the abyss.

So, as you can imagine I was a little nervous.

Sandra led us on this dive. We dropped down about 40ft and slowly made our way over to the cliff wall. Once their we began the deep part of our descent. One positive thing about being a little nervous is that it makes you focused. I watched my depth gauge as I slowly dropped. 50ft. Then 60. Then further than I’ve ever dove before, periodically adding air to my BC to keep myself from dropping like a rock. 70… 80… 90… Finally I reached my maximum depth of 105ft.

Boy, it looks like a long way to the surface.

One of the dangers of diving deep is the possibility of suffering nitrogen narcosis. This is a condition where the impact of nitrogen and oxygen under pressure can led to a feeling of euphoria or drunkenness and cause the sufferer to behave irrationally. This can be difficult to self- diagnose because if you’re suffering from nitrogen narcosis you feel very good and in control.

I clung to my nervousness happily as a sign that I was not suffering from this illness.

Sandra had us complete a few skills, I suppose to check our mental ability. We had to write our name backwards on a slate and we had to compare our instruments with each others.

Tim and I are demonstrating that we can still do our skills at this depth (i.e. we haven’t started to go crazy yet)

Because of the depth we were at, we could not make this a long dive and we soon began heading back up. We reboarded the boat, not an easy task in rough waters, after our shortest dive of the trip.

Angelfish… I’m sure Tim could tell you exactly what type.
Out photographer didn’t get many fish pictures, this is one of just a few.  He focused more on photographing the divers.  We’ll just have to get our own camera.  Maybe as a birthday present (hint hint!)
What a ham!

Dives 3-6

tarted the day out feeling pretty nervous. The prior days dives had me puking my guts out over the side of the boat. We only did two dives. Today we had four scheduled.

This time we were a little better prepared. The first day I didn’t take any dramamine until just before our boat left. This time I took two Dramamine the night before and two the morning of the dive.

The whole adventure scuba gang picked the bus up and headed out to Stuart cove’s which is where Tim and I had dove the day before. Today we had the boat all to ourselves.

Our trip was led by Larry and his wife Sandra. They also gave us our tests for our advanced certification.
Our other fellow divers were:
Henry, Marlene, Ben, Anne Marie, Ashley, Tracy, Matt, and Liz
The dive master that took us out was Neil.

The sea was rough again today but this time we went out and around the point where the water was calmer. We did two dives and then broke for lunch. After lunch some of our group headed back to the hotel but Tim and I, along with a few others, went back out for two more dives.
Tim and myself diving at Tunnel Wall.


We saw quite a few lionfish.  A species not native to the area.  And apparently, as I look through photos taken from our dive photographer, his favorite critter to photograph (next to the sharks of course).

These last two dives were in the rougher waters on the southeast side of the island. Our boat charged ahead into the waves, sea spray breaking over the bow and drenching everyone at the back of the boat.  Tim and I were in the small cabin, but even we weren’t safe. Water came in through windows that had slowly crept open as the boat was rocked by the sea.

We sat on long metal benches that went along the side of the boat. As the boat bounced about, we had to wrap our fingers around the edge of the bench and hold ourselves in place. I began to feel a little quisiness returning to my stomach. Fortunately it never got real bad, but after the last dive I was very happy to get back on solid ground.

We worked on some more skills during the final two dives and then spent a little time exploring. Both of these dives were near wrecks, one of which had been used in a movie ( something blue?) and still had some prop skeletons laying inside the ship. A photographer followed us on all of our dives so with luck we’ll have some good pictures to include later.


The David Tucker wreck

Here we are at the Willaurie wreck
Ah yes, the required pose with fake skeleton parts.  A right of passage that all divers must go through.

Tim looks like he’s auditioning for the waterworld production of Hamlet.

After the last dive we headed back to our hotel. Initially we had planned to go out for dinner but we were so tired we decided to eat there instead. We ended up going back to our room a little after 8pm. I read for a little bit. Tim tried to read but it wasn’t long before I heard a light snore and saw him laying there with his eyes closed and the dive book resting on his chest.

I turned the lights out at 9pm and joined him.

Feeding the fish

I didn’t bring my camera-phone with me on the dive boat…. Something about having an expensive electronic device around loads of seawater didn’t seem like a good idea. So you’ll have to use your imagination…

Picture tim and I excitedly boarding the boat, prepping our gear, and exploring the ocean with our first dive. Imagine how beautiful the corals and sponges looked as tim shone his light on them, bringing out the red color that is normally washed out at the seabed bottom. And feel the excitement we felt as we spotted lionfish, lobster, angel fish, yellowtail snapper, cow fish, cornet fish, and many many non-fish that I’m sure tim has listed in great detail in his log.

Now that the scene is set… Try to think of the missed photo opportunity where I’m leaning over the side of the boat, spewing chunks of eggs and toast down to hungry yellowtail snapper that were in a frenzy gobbling up what should have been my breakfast. Hmmmm… Sorry about that… I guess on second thought it’s good that I didn’t have a camera.

Yes the seas were rough. I threw up many times. Tim threw up. At least one other guy on the boat threw up. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Morning #1

Orange Hill doesn’t serve dinner on wednesday’s and Tim and I were hungry.  We didn’t feel like walking up the beach to one of the nearby restaurants.  And we found out that even in the Bahamas… Domino’s delivers!  So we asked the guy at the front desk how to order pizza.

He pointed across the room and instructed us, “if you look at the bookshelf, you’ll see a black pussy and a phone”, we looked over and sure enough, a nice little black kitty cat lay on one of the middle shelves keeping an eye on anyone who uses the phone.  On the wall above the cat, there were instructions on how to order pizza.

 

We put in our order and then went to the lounge to hang out and wait for dinner.  There’s a bar in the lounge, an honor bar, you help yourself to a beer or make a mixed drink and then put a checkmark down for each drink that you have.

We chatted with some of the other guests.  One guy was from “2 hours west of chicago” and he was here to help with drilling being done to control water runoff for new development.  Another guy was from england and he was here to do some fly fishing to catch bonefish.   We played trivial pursuit (okay… we just read the questions and tried to guess the answers) and were in bed by 10pm.  Yes… not quite the party animals we were in college

 

The next morning we were up at 6:30, a half an hour before the alarm was set to go off.  We wandered outside and watched the sun rise before heading off to get some eggs and toast for breakfast.  We had packed all our gear the night before so we just had to wait for our bus to pick us up and take us out for our first dive trip.

Name that tree

So Tim and I are sitting out on this porch swing like an elderly couple staring at bushes and imagining the ocean that we can’t quite see because of those bushes. We’re watching as hummingbirds hover about tasting occasionally from the bougenvilla. Tim notices this small tree and points it out to me… But he can’t quite remember it’s name. I tease him.. “well tell me it’s scientific name” I tell him.

The problem he explains is that the scientific name is the same as the common name and he can’t remember it. He stares at the tree… Thinking… Thinking

Tim then says that when he goes anywhere tropical it’s the one fruit that doesn’t taste good. I immediately say, “you mean papaya?”

He says, “that’s it!”

Ah… Isn’t family wonderful!

Tide pools

After checking in to our room, Tim and I went out for a nice walk along the beach. This is not somewhere you want to go barefoot. Lots of fossilized coral and broken glass made us happy to have sandles on.

We found lots of little tide pools that we examined for critters.

Tim (as always) was a wealth of information, discussing the differences between types of snails and pointing out calcified algeas (or something like that).

True to form he even pointed out some polyplacapoda which of course he couldn’t remember the common name for.

Orange hill

We’ve made it to our hotel… We’re waiting for our room to be ready. Happily they have wifi so we can ignore the beautiful ocean and wonderful weather while we give in to our addictions. (jk… As soon as the room is ready we’re going hiking!!!!)

yes… we’re geeks at heart!